Hundreds of cities experiment with giving people free money

Courthouse News

A massive social experiment is quietly taking place in some 200 American cities — what happens if you give poor people hundreds of dollars a month with no strings attached?

These cities are running pilot programs that typically give randomly selected people $500 a month for a year or two to spend as they please. They collect data on the broad policy initiative, which could replace the current complex patchwork of social welfare programs with a much simpler “guaranteed basic income.”

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere are analyzing a wealth of evidence from the experiments. When the results are published in the coming year, it will add to a growing national debate over what the social safety net should look like, said Sean Kline, director of the Basic Income Lab at Stanford University.

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